The torture-memos story from earlier this week has legs. That's the one about leaked governement legal memos supporting the legality of torture. On Thursday both the New York Times and the Washington Post carried blistering, lead editorials about the damage the torture and torture memos have done to America.
Also on Thursday, George W. Bush held a press conference at Sea Island, Georgia, yesterday. He called on a BBC reporter named Clive and made some jokes that Clive had never asked a question before. I'm sure Bush regrets calling on him. The following exchange took place per a transcript in The New York Times:
"Q: Mr. President, I wanted to return to the question of torture. What we've learned from these memos this week is that the Department of Justice lawyers and the Pentagon lawyers have essentially worked out a way that U.S. officials can torture detainees without running afoul of the law.
"So when you say that you want the U.S. to adhere to international and U.S. laws, that's not very comforting. This is a moral question: Is torture ever justified?
"BUSH: Look, I'm going to say it one more time. Maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you.
"We're a nation of law. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at these laws. And that might provide comfort for you. And those were the instructions from me to the government.
Clive's follow-up question came from these earlier Q and As that are unattributed:
"Q: Mr. President, the Justice Department issued and [sic] advisory opinion last year declaring that, as commander in chief, you have the authority to order any kind of interrogation techniques that are necessary to pursue the war on terror. Were you aware of this advisory opinion? Do you agree with it? And did you issue any such authorization at any time?
"BUSH: The authorization I issued was that anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations. That's the message I gave our people.
"Q: Have you seen the memos?
"BUSH: I can't remember if I've seen the memo or not, but I gave those instructions."
And after that a question from John __:
"Q: Returning to the question of torture, if you knew a person was in U.S. custody and had specific information about an imminent terrorist attack that could kill hundreds or even thousands of Americans, would you authorize the use of any means necessary to get that information and to save those lives?
"BUSH: What I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law."